After discovering minimalism a couple of years ago I have had numerous opportunities to learn how my brain ticks when it comes to consuming. In the past I used to run to sale bins and couldn’t walk away from anything that was a two for $10 special, even when I didn’t need it. I would go to the shop with my birthday money in hand looking for some random item of jewellery to spend my money on, waiting for the stores to tell me what I wanted or needed. I would look forward to Mondays when I got my weekly catalogues in my letter box and would comb a whole bundle of them each week, marking in things I would like to buy. These were the days before I discovered minimalism and realised how much time and money I was wasting on the pursuit of more.
Since then, I’ve learned that I can still buy things I want and need with a little forethought and more often then not, no buyers remorse. Minimalism won’t necessarily free you from the urge to want new things, to upgrade and replace, but it is a useful tool to help you reroute your purchasing habits into more intentional ones, with you in control not the marketers and stores who are experts at making you part with your hard earned cash! Minimalism can also also put you on the path to financial freedom a lot sooner. By all means I still go shopping and buy things, I am just not as unprepared as I used to be.
Over time I have developed some helpful questions that I can ask myself before I hand over any cash or cards. These are seven things I ask myself before making any purchases to help me make more intentional decisions. They can be applied to any purchase whether it be a new $10 shirt or a $1000 new outdoor setting.
1. Can I afford this?
I’ve put this first as it really is the most important one. If you are broke then you shouldn’t be shopping so you can skip the other questions and exit the shop. If you don’t have enough money to pay your car registration or buy everything on your grocery list then you definitely shouldn’t be out or online shopping and spending money. Here are some general guidelines that you can’t afford something. Answer yes or no to the following:
- you have credit card debt and don’t pay off your card in full each month.
- you are struggling to meet the minimum repayments on your credit card/s.
- you have to lay by it or put it on afterpay and cause your budget extra stress
- you know that by spending the money you are going to leave yourself short for essential purchases like petrol or groceries.
- you save $0 saved and struggle to put even $50 into your savings account each week
- you don’t have an emergency fund saved of at least $1000
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, put the items down and leave the store – you have some homework to do. When you get home cut up your credit cards if you have them (or freeze them) and go around your house and find what things you can sell to put into your emergency fund.
2. Do I need this?
Before heading for the check out line, ask yourself do I need this or just want it? Sometimes we can convince ourselves we are buying something we need when it is really just a want. Think about whether you really need another bottle of nail polish or set of pajamas or you are just buying them because they were on special or caught your eye. Picture your drawer at home, is it overflowing with pajama sets? Do you already have 50 bottles of nail polish that you barely use? It’s okay to buy things just because we want them on occasions, we work hard and should be able to reward ourselves, the key is to make sure that those purchases are more mindful and intentional.
Forget the Joneses’
Are you looking at blowing $1200 on the latest iPhone even though yours is only a year old and functions perfectly well? Or get the latest TV to impress your friends when they come over for game nights? Stop yourself now. This is an endless cycle, with new technology coming out every single day you are never going to keep up. Forget what everyone else has and make decisions based on YOUR needs not how others perceive you. Let’s be honest, no one really cares what you do and don’t have in your home and no one wins in a game where everyone is trying to out-debt each other.
3. Do I have something similar, can I borrow or buy it second hand?
Before running out and buying something brand new consider your options. Do you have something at home that you could use. If you need some new containers, maybe you could repurpose some glass jars from your pantry. Or repurpose some gift boxes instead of going out and buying new containers. If you need something for a once off project like a power tool, ask around if you can borrow one off a neighbour or family. Check local free cycle or sale sites or your local thrift store for more affordable options. If you can’t find what you need then you can look into buying it new.
4. Do I love it?
Before buying anything I ask myself do I love it. Is this the One? There is nothing worse then buying something similar to what you want only to realise days later there was a better one that you liked even more available. If you are about to buy something and it’s not 100% what you were looking for but 80% consider holding off on buying it and look around more for that perfect item. In time you will have a house of items you love rather than things you rushed into buying and probably won’t like for the long-term.
In the words of Derek Sivers, if it isn’t a hell yes it’s is a hell no. Find something that you love the design of, ask yourself is it comfy, does it make me feel good, do I love it enough to wear it regularly? By all means we shouldn’t become too attached to anything we have bought but we should make sure we are buying things we truly love into our homes and not just anything.
5. Does it suit my needs at this moment?
Ask yourself does this suit my needs for all types of purchases. Avoid buying an outfit that is a little too small with the intent to lose the weight. Buy what fits you today. If you are car shopping resist buying the fuel guzzling SUV if you are single and could get away with driving a small fuel efficient hatchback. If you only use your phone for text messaging and calls do you really need $1200 latest iPhone or could you get away with a much cheaper option?
6. Will I get a lot of use out of this item?
As they say quality over quantity. Before buying an item consider the quality of the product. Maybe you are about to get a bargain on some $10 flats but will soon experience foot pain from the poor quality and bin them within a couple of months as they are worn out. Maybe you’re considering buying a new shirt but you notice the buttons are a bit uneven or the lining of the shirt is already coming undone. Before parting with your hard earned cash consider whether you should perhaps save your money and buy something a little more long lasting.
Also consider how often you will use and item. Are you going to buy a dress to wear to a wedding and never wear it again? Maybe it would be better to hire a dress instead and save yourself the money. Are you buying a pair of shoes that will only go with outfit in your wardrobe or be out of style in a few months? Leave them behind and opt for something more classic that you can get your value out of with repeated use.
Related post: How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe: A Beginners Guide
7. If the item was full price would I still buy it?
This is one I find that really cuts to the chase of a purchase and whether I am making the right decision in buying it. If you would not pay full price for an item, do you really love it and is it really the right decision to be buying it. Sometimes we are pulled into making purchase decisions by the sale price and we lose a bit of our ability to see something exclusive of the bargain that it may be.
8. Is this an impulse decision?
Sometimes even when the above questions are all a yes, we can still be making an impulse decision which is when that after shopping anxiety feeling hits and feel a pang of guilt over what we just spent. Ask yourself before handing over your card, am I making an impulse purchase or it this a well planned decision? If you walked into the store without a list for what you needed, found something randomly and are at the register you are most likely making an impulse purchase that you may regret.
Two helpful tools
Here are two tools I also use to help me make more informed purchasing decision
1. Try it on first rule
In the past one of my worst budget and clutter offenders was caused by buying clothing on impulse and in a rush. I would grab a new stripey singlet that I just couldn’t resist whilst waiting in line at the register only to take it home and realise it didn’t fit. I would see the line at the change rooms and think – Oh stuff that line, it’ll be fine. Clothing is never off in the sizing… and if it’s not the right fit I will take it back.
But I soon realised that if I didn’t take it back with the limited time frame most stores had for returns I was stuck. And of course back in those days I didn’t want to waste my hard earned cash so would throw the item in a drawer never to be worn again (makes sense right? *Ahem*).
Since those days I have implemented a new rule that has saved me a lot of wasted money and unwanted items. I simply will not buy an item of clothing unless I have tried it on first. Even recently I tried on a blouse in one size and thought, oh it’s too big but I am in a rush, I will just grab the smaller size it’ll be fine. I realised what I was about to do a, return to old habits and instead I put the item back on the rack and walked out without it.
This rule works every time and will help ensure you have a wardrobe you love rather than an overflowing one of clothes that don’t fit or make you feel great!
2. 30 day wish list
To resist impulse buys, make a plan for future purchases. Keep a list somewhere on your phone or in an excel document of all the things you would like or need. Don’t act on them for 30 days. For more costly purchases, set a price limit such as items over $100 and aim to stretch out that wait period to 3 months. In that time, think about the item and do your research. Establish do you need it, what it costs, what is the best price, what do the reviews say, what are my friends and families opinion of the brand etc. Then start savings for it so by the time the three months rolls around you will have enough money to buy it in cash! And sometimes after a week or so you will realise that you really don’t want that item anymore and save yourself some money and unwanted clutter in your home!
The great thing about this is when your birthday or Christmas rolls around if people ask you what you would like you can suggest something on your list. It will also mean so much more to you when you finally get something as you have waited for it for the past month or more rather then something you bought randomly and probably shoved in the back of your wardrobe and forgot about.
And there is no greater feeling then buying something after you have thoroughly researched it, price matched it and nabbed the best price possible, made sure it is suitable for your needs and you are paying for it in cash.
Do you have any questions that you ask yourself before buying anything? Share them in the comments below 🙂